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What could go wrong.. go wrong.. go wrong.. in Asia?


Quite a lot. While it is reasonable, based on current trend lines, to envision the PRC as the center of an Asian mercantile empire, and the Yuan to merit reserve currency status, it is by no means certain if, or when, this will occur. Similarly, it is not yet certain that the US will contract but that is where my trends now point.

The Asia Society and the National Intelligence Council considered key issues influencing Northeast and Southeast Asia through 2020:

Regional scenarios: Fragmentation and Intrastate Conflict, Regional Cooperation / Local Autonomy, Competitive States, China Japan Conflict, China’s Benevolent Dominance

Drivers grouped by: Demographics; Governance; Identity, Ideology and Political Religions; Future of Force, Technology, Globalization

Global scenarios into which these Asia-specific drivers and scenarios might fit: Pervasive Insecurity, Regionalization, U.S.-China Conflict, Heterogeneous Globalization

Here's a wager on an Asian relationship model: China will expand its Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) security buffer by promoting the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia as a model for political operation within and without the FTA bloc as it a virtually unenforceable nonaggression treaty in which "the settlement of differences or disputes between their countries should be regulated by rational, effective and sufficiently flexible procedures, avoiding negative attitudes which might endanger or hinder cooperation."

By this standard, United Nations resolutions are a model of probity and fierce enforcement. China, India, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, Russia and New Zealand have now signed Amity, but Australia balks as it would muzzle member state criticism while circumscribing the ANZUS Treaty between Australia and the US (further reinforcing Asian fears that it is the US' "deputy sheriff" for security in the region). The US may not even/ever be invited to join the FTA and it would certainly take issue with the limitations of the Amity treaty.

This would suit China's diplomatic aims as Beijing 'consistently characterizes the US as a "hegemon" "connoting a powerful protagonist and overbearing bully that is China’s major competitor."' I note in Hegemons come and go: a renewing Chinese hegemon eyes a mature US hegemon, that:

the Chinese perceive the moderate Peaceful Rise -- Peaceful Development as a ‘permanent’ approach so long as Washington demonstrates a "constructive U.S. response to the moderate Chinese approach." One must presume that a different US policy would occasion a different Chinese policy.

I despair of an already angered future Chinese generation:

Public opinion also was widely regarded as a constraint on US-China cooperation, at least for the time being. Chinese strategists described PRC public opinion as highly nationalistic, deeply resentful of US policy on Taiwan, and highly suspicious of US global objectives. Relatively young Chinese, they added, are notably more nationalistic than their elders. Indeed, several Chinese interviewees observed that the outgoing generation of leaders, and Jiang Zemin in particular, frequently has been criticized in private for being too soft and accommodating toward the United States. PRC interlocutors also contend that US suspicions of China remain high, both in and out of government.

As the Sino American relationship lacks the confidence-building measures (CBMs) that China has put in place with other front line states, surprises could blindside either party. I refer readers to Hegemons for themes, more Chinese proactive and US omissive, of the relationship.

Japan also may not so easily fall into line. Tokyo predicts China will ''strengthen its military capability in order to demonstrate its capability to Taiwan and the United States, and will be the greatest military power in the Asia-Pacific region in the future.'' Tokyo defines three Chinese attack scenarios noting that while China ''is cautious about using military force to solve international issues as it understands that doing so will hinder its own development,'' it is ''likely that the Chinese Communist Party will go its own way to secure its sovereignty and territory as well as expand its interests in the sea.''

Hoge notes that "China and Japan have never been powerful at the same time," which presents an unknown to the Asian equation, especially as I believe that Japan can go nuclear in a matter of months or less (components made, needing only assembly, a technicality that allows Tokyo to say that it 'does not possess'). Given that Japan is well aware of the impact of nuclear weapons, it could conceivably go to first use to forestall Nagasaki redux.

Conversely, while it is true that India and China "have not resolved their 42-year-old border dispute and still distrust each other," they have not let it stand in the way of commercial cooperation (unlike Pakistan's approach to India that inserts a Kashmiri resolution into the most trivial bilateral discussions). China will still play with Pakistan as there is no reason not to and it holds a path into the Stans, but Beijing will forge a larger commercial relationship with New Delhi.

It will be interesting to see how these three states will coexist, share regional control, access energy sources, obtain maritime security, and a multitude of sovereignty matters such as the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Part 4

Gordon Housworth

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